What I’ve been reading

The Story of Silver, by um…William Silber, probably is the best book on silver, as I suppose it should be.  How many other books have this same property of coincidence of name and topic?  Did James Igel ever write a book on hedgehogs?

Adrian Tinniswood, The Royal Society & the Invention of Modern Science is the best short introduction to its stated topic.

Linn Ullmann, Unquiet: A Novel.  A novel, yes, but also a not so thinly veiled memoir of life with her two very famous parents Ingmar Bergman and Liv Ullmann.  Fantastic if you already know the back story, but at the very least readable if you don’t.

Kenneth M. Pollack, Armies of Sand: The Past, Present, and Future of Arab Military Effectiveness.  Pollack takes a look at the systematic dysfunctionalities behind Arab militaries, arguing most of them have been worse than the North Korean or Somalian fighting forces.  Jordan in 1948, Hizbullah, and early ISIS are the main exceptions here, British training in the former case being a factor and morale a factor in the latter two cases.

Andrew S. Curran, Diderot and the Art of Thinking Freely.  A good filling-in of what were to me many blanks in the life of Diderot, a figure whom I never can decide whether he is underrated or overrated.


Re Coicidence of name and topic, I would propose: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B000FCK1KC/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1

I found another such book: Chess Informant by Chess Informant

Re the Tinniswood science book, I suggest--and GM Garry Kasparov would agree with the title of this book (Inside Chess joke)-- that TC read the following: "The Forgotten Revolution: How Science was Born in 300 BC and Why It Had to Be Reborn" by Lucio Russo (Springer: 1996).

Short answer to the above title: no patents back then, and Dark Ages.

Hizbullah is an army of Arabs but I'm not sure it is quite an Arab army. Its connection with Iran is quite extensive. If we are going to give the Jordanians points for British training, then Hizbullah should certainly get points for the training and backing they obtain from Iran.


Pierre Leuillette's account of the behavior of the Egyptian military as he saw it during the Suez incident gives you a sense of their fighting prowess.

Stanley Kurtz had an article some time back on the evolution of social relations in the Arab world. His thesis has been that Arab society is by default tribal society and civic life in Arab societies inherently half-finished and problematic. A corollary of that is that the idea of fighting for your country doesn't have much juice. Not sure to what extent training can remedy that.

I'm reading Good To Go which offers a splendid mix of sports science, the scientific method, hacking of the scientific method, and crimes of capitalism.

Long story short, McDonald's can be as good as fancy formulations. (Usain Bolt was on a straight chicken nugget regime at Beijing when he set his records.)

I imagine it would be a good flip side to Tinniswood.

@anonymous - I did not understand your last sentence, as in fact most Olympic athletes including M. Phelps eat junk food, since it has lots of calories. Athletes need calories, not fiber. And science says their teeth are often rotten (they have a busy schedule and often don't brush their teeth, true, as per the book ~"The Secret Olympian" by Anonymous, good book well written, from about 15 years ago)

I think there was a bit of a twisted road, from food, to engineered products (starting with Gatorade) and then at the elite level, back to healthy food again.


The more questionable science of sports nutrition might now be aimed and marketed at the rest of us. Supermarket and sporting goods aisles packed with things that cost more and do no better than a drink of water or a piece of chicken.

And I think the latest studies still report that daily vitamins increase mortality rather than the reverse. More supermarket aisles to close .. but think of the GDP?

And on the last line, makers of sports products know their scientific method. That's why they choose n=9 people for a study. More likely to get luck of the draw. And if that doesn't work, you can disqualify a couple, n=7.

Sounds like an interesting book on silver.

I have a simplistic view of the metal. In the nascent USA it was the weight for the US dollar; was replaced by gold ; which gold was replaced by the PhD standard.

Bi-metallism ("Cross of Gold" Speech, and all that) silver lost to gold - see the Gold Standard Act, 1900.

I hadn't known that FDR had done the same to silver as to gold (confiscated all the gold coins = money and devalued the dollar from $23 to $35 an ounce).

Silver is both an industrial commodity and a financial metal. Now, it seems undervalued in relation both to gold (yesterday gold/silver ratio was about 83:1, historic 15 or 40, depending) and the DJIA, which is overvalued to gold at 19:1 (historic DJIA/Gold ratio 10:1; early 1980 when gold hit $800 1:1; August 1999 dot.com bubble 42:1; August 2011 depressed DJIA, gold $1,800 6:1).

I avoid silver in favor of gold. The premium for coins is too high above bullion for cash price for silver. Silver behaves like a commodity more than a financial asset. From what I read silver demand and supplies are both declining. Old adage - "It's not what you buy. It's what you pay." Maybe I should buy some silver.

Nice to see a socio-political commentary on silver, but even more interesting from an old-timey metallurgical selection: "The Metallurgy of Silver: A Practical Treatise on the Amalgamation, Roasting and Lixiviation of Silver Ores Including the Assaying, Melting and Refining of Silver Bullion"...can imagine development of silver as commodity had impact on late 1800's

Dick the butcher is pro not ok!

That’s like a double negative isn’t it not?

Now even novels can have titles with colons. At least it's a "not so thinly veiled" roman a clef, as opposed to thickly veiled, I suppose

Funny that since Trump's election, racial homogeneity became something of a virtue (for the political purpose of immigration restriction) yet racially homogeneous Arab armies can't win anything. In biology as in life, monocultures are brittle and fail to adapt when the tide changes.

Israel's monocultural Jewish army kicks ass.

Do Chinese wring their hands over their Han monoculture like Americans do?

1. “a job with family-sustaining wages, family and medical leave, vacations, and retirement security”
2. “high-quality education, including higher education and trade schools”
3. “high-quality health care”
4. “safe, affordable, adequate housing”
5. “economic security to all who are unable or unwilling to work”

I read that and say technically easy to do with less spending than today, but politically impossible until and if the t-bond market goes south dramatically.

Replace Social Security, minimum wage SNAP and TANF with a negative income tax. Force state and local gov to allow any residential building increases density.
Replace medicare and medicaid with a plan with a very high deducible based on income that only cover care that has strong evidence of dollar efficacy.
Cut defense spending in half.

Quality education can be done for 30% (at least) less than is spent now and many go to school longer than they should. Cut enrollment at state schools in half and we'll be fine. Cut university spending per student in half and we'll be fine.

People can live well on less than many think see: https://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/21/nyregion/kiryas-joel-a-village-with-the-numbers-not-the-image-of-the-poorest-place.html

The Democrats and AARP will not lat any of that happen except defense spending cut and the republicans will not let that happen.

So do they really think AGW in an existential danger. I think not. Nor do they think much of the above are really important.

Implausible. Impractical.

You have expended far more experience, IQ and knowledge on the issues than have the idiots (all hat, no brains) that propose the Green New Deal (GND) same as the old New Deal.

Remember, those people think they’re your moral superiors.

The GND is not meant to be serious legislation, but to virtue signal the Democrats’ as caring about climate change (a hoax) and the Republicans as not caring. The Democrats are relying on no one reading what’s actually in the GND.

Loud. Proud. Stupid.

Re: Jordan,

Not only in 1948, also in 1967, Jordan's was the only Arab military that was not a joke, Israeli to Jordanian kills in Jordan were close to 1:1, in the overall campaign 20 Arabs were killed per Israeli.



The classification of "the book on silver by a guy named Silber",

in the classification of humor,

is right next to the following "joke"

"hey did you ever think about how ironic it is that Lou Gehrig died of Lou Gehrig's disease" ?

There are funny jokes in the world but as far as I know almost none of them are in the taxonomic classification we are discussing.

It's as mind-boggling as the fact that Bertrand Russell was the one who discovered Russell's paradox.

"Diderot would remain as editor for the next twenty-five years, seeing the Encyclopédie through to its completion."

Definitely overrated. Anybody could have done it.

On the coincidences of names and topics: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nominative_determinism

I would like to think James Exon wrote a book on genetics (or oil) but...he didn't.

"How many other books have this same property of coincidence of name and topic? "

The eminent brain scientist, Russell Brain, sometime editor of the neurology journal Brain, elevated to the peerage as Baron Brain. I'm sure he also wrote books about brain science.

Why Arabs Lose Wars


In college one of my roommate's assigned readings was the book "The Imperial Animal" by Lionel Tiger and Robin Fox.

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